Phone alert by Glendale officials was only a drill — but caused brief panic

It was only a drill.

But possibly millions in Southern California got an alert at about 9:10 a.m. Saturday, May 14, on their smartphones blaring with a message that looked like the real deal: It instructed residents in Chevy Chase Canyon, near Glendale, to evacuate immediately and head to an evacuation site in Glendale Community College’s Parking Lot B.

No mention with the alert, which sounded off like an Amber Alert, that it was but a drill.

But it was.

“Glendale fire and police (agencies) planned for a fire drill exercise this morning,” police Sgt. Shawn Milligan said. “It was mistakenly sent out not described as a drill, and we’re working to remedy.”

The city tweeted this: “There was an error in the tech used to send out this mornings message. We are working to remedy this issue.”

The blaring alert landed on phones in Long Beach, Downey, Temple City, the San Fernando Valley, San Pedro and even in Costa Mesa — and likely in many other communities as well.

Glendale fire officials had tweeted Thursday, May 12, that they had planned the drill. And about 20 minutes before it took place, the city of Glendale sent out a tweet with that information.

But no further warnings were sent out.

And how many follow those accounts?

Chevy Chase Canyon Residents, let’s prepare for an emergency together! Join us this Saturday May 14 @ 9 am! Watch this short video for additional details! @MyGlendale

Chevy Chase Canyon Evacuation Drill https://t.co/7Ly3OAgNZA via @YouTube

— Glendale Fire Department CA (@GlendaleFireCA) May 12, 2022

THIS IS A DRILL: #MyGlendale is conducting an evacuation exercise in Chevy Chase Canyon.
For those who live in the Chevy Chase Canyon: Safely evacuate your home and proceed to the evacuation site located at the Glendale Community College Parking Lot B: https://t.co/zjTZ6CMN6E

— City of Glendale, CA (@MyGlendale) May 14, 2022

By 9:30 a.m. the city’s tweet already had received nearly 700 replies, almost all of them critical because of the lack of advanced notice and no mention in the alert of it being a drill.

The city’s Twitter account had roughly 17,800 followers at the time the drill took place. The Glendale Fire Department’s Twitter account had less than 9,000.

“It would have been less upsetting to have woken up on fire than getting this text messages here in Pomona, great job,” one person tweeted to Glendale officials.

“Not good for the elderly, sick and others who might not check Twitter,” said another. “There should be mention of it being a drill on the phone alert.”

“Everyone was thinking Glendale is on fire,” said a third. “A lot of people aren’t on Twitter. You’ll want to sent (sic) another alert saying false alarm.”

Which, just after 9:30 a.m., did take place — with smartphones again sounding off with the new message.

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